What originally started as a mostly educational channel for people who cook has turned into a massive mix of recipes, competitions, big personalities, and (of course) lots of food! These days, Food Network is a robust channel of programming for anyone who enjoys food – from cooking to simply eating it.
There’s a little bit of something for everyone on Food Network. There are instructional cooking programs where your favorite cooks and chefs teach you recipes, techniques, and tips. Later in the day, you’ll find programming geared more toward entertainment, with holiday-themed challenges and chefs battling it out to see who is the best. You can also join chefs as they show off their favorite restaurants or help save failing ones.
While Food Network is a buffet of fun programming, there are definitely some that stand above the rest. These are the best of the best!
Big Bad Budget Battle
Relatively new to the Food Network lineup, Big Bad Budget Battle has managed to snag a spot on my list. It’s hosted by the Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond. Her other show, the aptly-titled The Pioneer Woman, is one of Food Network’s most popular shows. I wasn’t surprised when they handed her another show to host. This one might be even better!
This one is set in the “Flavortown Market” used in Guy’s Grocery Games, but the gameplay is a little different on Ree’s show. Three chefs are challenged to make the best and most inexpensive dishes. They have to shop on a seriously limited budget and aren’t given much time to cook, either. They’re mostly cooking regular dishes that we all eat at home. It’s one of those cooking shows where you can actually pick up tips and recipes.
Alex vs. America
I’ve always liked Alex Guarnaschelli, aka the ICAG, so I was happy to see her get another show. We already knew her from The Kitchen and Supermarket Stakeout, plus she has played judge on shows like Chopped. And obviously, she’s been on Iron Chef America because she’s an Iron Chef.
Trying to beat someone with a rap like that would be pretty epic, so Food Network ran with it. On Alex vs. America, three seriously brave chefs from across the United States compete against each other and Alex in hopes that they come out on top. The winner of the first round gets to choose specifics for the second, and the loser (even if it’s Alex herself) gets sent home. Only chefs that fare better than Alex during the second round take home prize money.
Weekend mornings are for non-competition cooking shows, and if I don’t get to watch The Kitchen on Saturdays and Sundays, it throws my weekly recipe planning out of whack. It’s more than just a cooking show, though. The hosts do share recipes and meal tips, but they also answer viewer questions, play trivia games, and even test out new and unusual snacks together.
The chefs are all very different from each other, but they seem to really mesh together well on-screen. Think of it like a talk show, with a bunch of friends just sitting around chatting. It’s an overall relaxing show to watch, if I’m being honest, and that’s probably why it’s one of Food Network’s most popular shows.
Worst Cooks in America
Everyone knows that person who can’t cook to save their life. Worst Cooks in America collects all of those folks and throws them into a culinary boot camp together. They are split into teams and learn cooking skills from some of Food Network’s best, all in an attempt to earn that $25,000 cash prize. Well, and hopefully to learn how to cook edible food, too.
Anne Burrell is always the captain of the red team, and the blue team’s captain changes from season to season. Some of the recruits for Worst Cooks in America are unbelievably bad in the kitchen, so you can’t not watch this show. A few seasons even feature well-known celebrities as recruits, like Carmen Electra and Barbara Eden.
Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
Food Network programming is filled with chefs creating high-end dishes out of expensive ingredients, so it’s nice to get a change of pace with Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. There’s nothing super fancy here. Host Guy Fieri drives coast to coast, seeking out the best classic diner food along the way. There’s a lot of deep-fried deliciousness on this show.
The show has been airing since 2007, with a total of 35 seasons so far. It has featured more than 800 restaurants across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Plus, Fieri has featured some restaurants in Europe and Cuba. If you’re traveling somewhere new, you might want to see which restaurants Fieri has visited there! I have actually done this, and it was amazing.
If we’re being honest, Chopped is the template that many other Food Network competition shows are based on. It began the format that we’ve grown so accustomed to these days: four chefs pitted against each other in a fast-paced, three-round competition. In each round, the chefs are challenged to make a dish from a basket of mystery ingredients, and someone has to go home each round.
It’s clearly a great model. Not only did Chopped become the blueprint for something like 50% of the network’s programming (including a lot of shows on this list!), but it just kept going. Hey, if it’s not broken, right? Since it first aired in 2009, there have been 52 seasons of this series! That doesn’t even include the 39 specials, like Chopped: Beat the Judge and Chopped Tournament of Stars.
The Pioneer Woman
The Pioneer Woman is one of the most popular shows on Food Network, and it is easy to see why. Ree is not a formally trained culinary chef but just a regular woman sharing recipes and tips straight from her own kitchen. Of course, that kitchen is part of a working cattle ranch in Oklahoma that she shares with her family.
There are a lot of cooking shows among Food Network’s programming, but Ree’s down-to-earth nature and her style of cooking make her show one of my favorites. I genuinely enjoy tuning in on the weekends to get recipe ideas for the upcoming week.
Beat Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay has been one of Food Network’s celebrity chefs since 1995, and he’s an Iron Chef. He is also a successful owner and executive chef of several restaurants and franchises. Understandably, most chefs see him as the one to beat! In Beat Bobby Flay, a couple of Flay’s chef and celeb friends bring in two contestants. They must compete against each other first, and the winner of that round goes on to battle Bobby with their own signature dish.
Beat Bobby Flay is a light-hearted but fast-paced competition that is fun to watch. There aren’t any crazy challenges, weird ingredients, or other gimmicks here – just cooking against the clock. And it doesn’t hurt that the episodes have a shorter run-time than other competitions that feature four competitors. It’s easy to catch an episode or two without feeling like you have to be overly committed.
Although Alton Brown has officially ended his time at Food Network, Cutthroat Kitchen will always live on as one of my favorite cooking competition shows on the network. Alton has too much fun torturing the four chefs on the show. The show aired from 2013 to 2017, and while he is no longer with Food Network, there are fifteen seasons just waiting for you to stream.
Like other cooking competitions, it features four chefs competing through three rounds of elimination. But it’s very different from the rest, because Alton auctions off a series of items that the chefs can use to sabotage each other. Some of the sabotages are relatively tame, like having to use specific ingredients. But some of the sabotages are wild, like not being able to use any cookware to cook or having to prep dishes in a giant hamster wheel.
Guy’s Grocery Games
If it feels like Guy Fieri makes up for half of the Food Network, that’s because he kind of does. During the pandemic, someone on Reddit was even bored enough to calculate just how much of the network’s daily programming featured Fieri. Not much has changed since then because Food Network consists of 16 and a half hours of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Drives today.
But out of all of his shows, I think that Guy’s Grocery Games is my favorite. Chefs line up at “Flavortown Market” to compete against each other through three rounds of elimination until only one is left. They then shop for a list of ingredients to earn up to $20,000. Of course, it wouldn’t be as hard without Fieri throwing them a bunch of must-use ingredients and other limitations to make the competition a little more challenging.